Points in Focus Photography

Fixing Frozen Wacom Tablets in Windows

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For about as long as I’ve been using Wacom tablets, I’ve encountered a rather rare phenomena where my tablet (which I also use as my mouse) will crash and burn causing my mouse to freeze. Other than this occurring in both Lightroom (2 and now 3) and Photoshop, and with both the pen and mouse, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. The following describes the source of the problem (as far as I can tell) and the solution I’ve come up with for use in Windows XP, Vista and 7.

In Windows XP, the fix is as simple as restarting the Tablet service though the Services control panel. In fact it was easy enough, and the OS insecure enough, that a simple CMD script could do it as well.

net stop tabletservicewacom
net start tabletservicewacom

It was tedious enough that I use to have that in a cmd script file, but I could call from the hot-key application I used. However, it could also be called from a simple shortcut or though one of the media/shortcut keys on most modern keyboards.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 change that. The new privilege system means that you can’t simply restart a service without some form of privilege escalation, even for admin users. In addition, the separation of privileges has apparently prompted Wacom to introduce a “Wacom_TabletUser” process that appears to interface that user’s settings with the system-level tablet driver.

Unfortunately when the system’s “Wacom_Tablet.exe” (the process behind the TabletServiceWacom service) crashes the user process doesn’t. At this point, simply restarting the tablet service leaves the orphaned user process blocking communicate and the tablet frozen.

The solution is to stop the TabletServiceWacom service, kill the the Wacom_TabletUser.exe process, and restart the tablet service.

The trick is scripting that so it can be done without having to navigate the OS with a keyboard. UAC is what makes this complicated.

Option 1: Use the Elevate Power Toy and a CMD script.

The elevate command isn’t built into Windows. You’ll need to download it from here. Installation is straightforward enough, extract the EXE that’s provided, and install the “ElevateCommand.inf”.

The commands needed are show below. Copy and paste the following into a text file and change the extension to “.cmd” and you’re good to go.

elevate net stop "TabletServicWacom"
taskkill /F /IM "Wacom_tabletuser.exe"
elevate net start "TabletServiceWacom"

Running this will cause a UAC prompt to appear, and then reset the tablet driver.

Option 2: Use AutoHotkey to do this on a hot-key shortcut.

Actually there’s two options here, one is to run the cmd script from option 1 via a hot-key, though that’s not nearly as elegant if you ask me.

The second alternative is to download this compiled AutoHotkey script and execute it as a hot-key action. The script is compiled to require administrator privileges and will generate a UAC prompt.

Of course there’s one more option, you could always reboot when the tablet driver craps out. This was what I was doing until just recently, and it’s horribly annoying if you ask me so I don’t really count it as much of an option.

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